By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOT

Several historical developments converged last week when Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) held a ceremonial ribbon cutting event to celebrate the opening of its new vehicle processing center at Dundalk Marine Terminal in Baltimore, MD. WWL is one of the world’s largest providers of outbound logistics for vehicle manufacturers.

First came the vision to locate an expanded vehicle processing center in Baltimore, a process that started as early as 1999. Second, involved the existing strategic partnership between Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines, the automobile and ro/ro carrier, and the Maryland Port Administration, an arrangement that dates back to 2001. Finally, and most crucially, there was the requirement of one of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics’ major customers, Subaru of America, which decided less than a year and a half ago to relocate its primary East Coast vehicle processing facility from Newport News, VA, to Baltimore.

‘Being here tonight is the culmination of planning that started in 1999,’ said Christopher Connor, President of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics in Region Americas. ‘It was then that we started having discussions with the Maryland Port Administration to get a piece of land for an ocean terminal and for processing and distribution.’

‘In 2001, the MPA signed a long-term agreement with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines that was the culmination of our strategic plan to become big and proficient in the ro/ro business,’ added Kathleen Broadwater, the MPA’s deputy director, who spoke at the event. ‘Signing that agreement with the number one ro/ro carrier in the world was the culmination of that strategic vision.’

The development of the Baltimore VPC would have been impossible, Connor noted, without the support of a key customer, Subaru of America. Fifteen months ago the auto maker decided to relocate form Newport News to Baltimore.

‘We had been processing vehicles in Newport News for Subaru,’ Connor commented. ‘They gave us the opportunity to put together a service package for them in Baltimore. But we had one problem. We did not have a facility.’ The solution was for WWL to set up temporary quarters in the port of Baltimore to service Subaru until the new facility could be completed.

‘We wanted to move out of Newport News to Baltimore because we hit a bigger share of our market here,’ said Larry Strug, national transportation manager for Subaru of America. ‘We also had environmental issues with navy vessels in the vicinity. They were discharging material out of their stacks and onto our cars, which was hurting the paint. We couldn’t stay.

‘We are particularly happy that this facility was built for us in such a short period of time,’ Strug added. WWL will also be processing Ford export vehicles at the facility.

According to Connor, the new facility provides WWL with a centralized preparation and distribution center for receiving, processing and shipping vehicles inland and overseas, within close proximity to its ocean operations. The vehicle processing center is adjacent to the Mid-Atlantic Terminals, where Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines handles agricultural and construction machinery, and project cargo.

‘Having this centralized distribution center on the East Coast is a valuable asset for Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and our customers,’ said Connor. ‘This VPC doubles the WWL footprint at one of the most important vehicle processing ports, and provides our customers with a more integrated, seamless journey for their vehicles.’

The proximity to the Mid-Atlantic Terminal also allows the two operations to share acreage, noted Mike Gagner, general manager of the vehicle processing center. ‘Wallenius Wilhelmsen has a total of 150 acres,’ he said. ‘Seventy-two acres are dedicated to autos. We have the luxury of having floating acreage we can share with the Mid-Atlantic Terminal. When we get busy we can use their land, and if they get busy, they can use ours.’

The VPC has total annual capacity to handle 124,000 units. The facility boasts 12